One of the biggest cats in the prehistoric era of Earth was the American Lion, but it has been extinct for thousands of years. However, there is proof that breaks the myth that a tiger and a lion can’t produce a cub if they breed. It is extremely rare in the wild and the majority of the hybrid offspring, Ligers (Male Lion and Female Tiger) and Tigons or Tigrons (Male Tigers and Female Lions), are bred in captivity.
The liger is the biggest cat in the world and it simply dwarfs tigers and lions in size and weight. Their skulls are more than double the size of the heads of its respective parents. Jungle Island in Miami holds a Liger named Hercules that is recognized in by Guiness World Records for being the biggest cat in the world. Hercules weighs over 1100 pounds, over twice the weight of his father; and enough to rival Polar Bears and the Siberian tiger. Hercules still holds the record and is healthy. Sinbad is also a liger that was shown on the National Geographic channel. He is reported to be the exact size and weight as Hercules.
HOW DO LIGERS GET SO BIG?
This is because ligers have imprinted genes present in all feline big cats species. The gene can be expressed maternally or paternally, with great restrictions to species and gender. That’s why the Liger is much larger than its ‘brother’ species, the Tigon.
Female tigers exhibit a gene that causes the pre-pubescent growth hormone of ligers to go on throughout its life, but at the cost of them being sterile. Female ligers, however, can still be fertile. They are to big cats like gigantism is to humans, except they can still use their killer biological weapons such as bone crushing jaws and slashing sharp claws. Ligers also have the camoflauge stripes as the trait is passed on from their female tiger mothers. Look at how big they can grow in this Liger video. On the main page of Liger.org, you can find even more Liger and Tigon videos .
The truth is that ligers and tigons have been well known to the world for much of the last two centuries. In A. H. Bryden’s published work Animal Life and the World of Nature, knowledge of the way the cats are bred was explained in 1902.
“It has remained for one of the most enterprising collectors and naturalists of our time, Mr Carl Hagenbeck, not only to breed, but to bring successfully to a healthy maturity, specimens of this rare alliance between those two great and formidable felidae, the lion and tiger.”
LIGER ATTACK KILLS OWNER – LIGERS ARE JUST AS DANGEROUS AS TIGERS AND LIONS
Animal handler Peter Getz was killed by a liger he was taking care of in the Safari’s Animal Sanctuary. Such unstable personality changes are not rare when handling these dangerous animals and caution must be taken. In cross-breeding between species, the natural DNA process is not natural and many errors occur – such as split personality of aggression.
Cat conservationist Tippi Hedren has stated on the National Geopraphic website , “Beyond appearance, the big cats betray their mixed ancestry with a split personality. They like to be in the water (a tiger trait) and are very social (a lion trait).”
Although it’s rare, conflict in animal instinct can cause behavioral problems in the cat, especially for zoo-keepers.
The Ethics of Cross Breeding Tigers and Lions to Gain Ligers and Tigons
The dangers of cross-breeding between species are well known to all zoologists and animal owners. The technique isn’t down to science and the problems that manifest over time in these big cats get worse and worse. This is seen a lot in household dogs when they are cross-bred with a variety of different species.
Does man have the power to play God? Many would argue that these breeding events do cause in nature but those concerned with the ethics of zoo-keeping of animals would point out that zoos are gaining profit by showcasing ligers and tigons.
However, most recognized zoos in the United States prohibit cross-breeding between species, especially in the case of tigers and lions. Here is a popular video on Youtube that explains exclusive facts about the dangers of breeding cats of different species . The Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary and the Big Cat Rescue organizations seek to protect the ligers and tigons from the health defects and genetic problems they have acquired.
However, the bottom line is that the liger is the biggest cat in the entire world. Although big cat species such as the Siberian Tiger is the largest ‘pure’ taxon cat and extinct animals like the American Lion was more naturally able to survive in the wild (it frequently competed against the Giant short-faced bear ), the liger still holds the title of the biggest cat according to physical size, even if it is a rare genetic occurence in nature.
Bryden, A.H. (contributor). “Animal Life and the World of Nature” (1902-1903, bound partwork).
Barnett, Lindsay (2008-10-31). “Liger attack victim dies from wounds in Oklahoma”, Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 1 November 2008.
“Growth dysplasia in hybrid big cats”. Retrieved on June 23, 2006.